Palestine & Lebanon face new crisis, U.S.-Israeli tactics provoke clashes

By Sara Flounders
Published May 24, 2007 12:47 AM

The urgent need for solidarity with the Palestinian struggle was put in sharpest terms this May.

Israeli air strikes targeted apartment houses, cut off vital supplies and carried out a new round of targeted assassinations in Gaza. The Israeli army moved tanks and soldiers over the Gaza border and carried out eight air strikes on May 17 and 18.

This week in the West Bank the Israeli army invaded the Jenin refugee camp and the nearby Kufer Dan village in the northern part of the West Bank and clashed with members of the local resistance.

On May 21 the Israeli army also invaded Nablus and nearby villages, attacked Palestinian media outlets in the city and confiscated media equipment. Troops also attacked the southern West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Hebron, searching homes and kidnapping four civilians.

While Israeli forces attacked Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the U.S.-backed Lebanese government surrounded and shelled a refugee camp housing more than 30,000 Palestinians in northern Lebanon, outside Tripoli. More than 60 people are dead. Electricity and water have been cut off to the camp and health workers are not permitted in to evacuate the injured.

In the face of these attacks it is more important then ever to increase the support and defense of the Palestinian people and their heroic struggle for sovereignty, self-determination and the full right of return.

Despite decades of occupation and the most extreme use of imprisonment, torture and mass displacement, the Israeli state has been unable to defeat the Palestinian resistance. This present crisis in Gaza is rooted in the U.S./Israeli policy of using every means—military, political and economic—to exacerbate factional differences within the Palestinian movement.

Since the democratic election of a Hamas-led government in Gaza, Israel has attempted to break the national resistance, starve the entire population and sow dissention. The Israelis have stepped up bombing and assassinations in combination with a financial blockade.

By withholding tax revenues and promised funds, they have cut off wages to the Palestine Authority’s civil servants, teachers, and security forces. More than one-third of the population in Gaza is dependent on this income for survival. Israel’s seizure of Palestinian funds has impacted on schools, hospitals, sanitation, water, electricity and the most basic urban maintenance.

Media reports of military clashes between Hamas and Fatah forces—the two major Palestinian organizations—seem to reflect the same U.S./Israeli divide and rule tactics. Fatah National Security Advisor Mohammed Dahlan initiated the breakdown of the Palestinian Unity Government and provoked the latest round of fighting.

The Bush administration was opposed to the formation of a National Unity Government in Gaza including both groups and opposed to the decision of the president of the Palestine Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to join the coalition government with Hamas in order to end the crisis in Gaza.

Israel tried to further envenom the divisions and factional clashes by opening a bombing campaign in the midst of the fight between the two Palestinian factions. Hamas and other resistance forces responded by firing Qassem rockets from Gaza into Israel.

The left secular forces—the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)—have organized joint demonstrations in both northern and southern Gaza demanding national unity and calling on both Hamas and Fatah to end the clashes and “point the guns at the occupation.”

In the face of Israeli bombing, President Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas have agreed to a new ceasefire as of May 22.

War on defenseless in Lebanon

Meanwhile the Lebanese government has opened attacks on the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. Over 450,000 Palestinian refugees within Lebanon have lived in the most oppressed and impoverished conditions in 13 refugee camps for almost 60 years. The government claims the attack is in response to a bank robbery carried out by an isolated group called Fatah El Islam which lacks popular support and is allegedly linked to Al Qaeda.

This Lebanon army offensive against the most oppressed sector in Lebanese society comes at a time when the shaky and illegitimate Lebanese government is trying to again focus attention and blame on Syria rather than the U.S. and Israel for the continuing crisis in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s weak, divided government—an ally of U.S. imperialism—is in the midst of a political crisis. The Lebanese Parliament has not met in months. A broad opposition coalition led by Hezbollah and including secular, progressive and some Christian forces has called for the resignation of Siniora’s government for nine months. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, has been the scene of ongoing massive political street protests and a giant encampment in front of Parliament that has lasted for months. This opposition is a united force that cannot be politically marginalized or ignored.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese Communist Party and other groups opposing the government have continually warned that Washington and reactionary Lebanese forces backing the weakened government may try to enflame civil war and sharpen religious, sectarian and national differences in order to break up the progressive opposition.

The attack took place when Washington was again pushing the U.N. Security Council to initiate a war crimes tribunal to charge Syria with the assassination two years ago of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Bush administration immediately issued messages of support for the Lebanese government’s attack. The BBC described the clashes as “Lebanon’s bloodiest internal fighting since the country’s civil war ended 17 years ago.”

Hezbollah issued a statement on May 22 that said: “We feel that there is someone out there who wants to drag the army to this confrontation and bloody struggle ... to serve well-known projects and aims. We are hearing calls for more escalation and fighting, which will ultimately lead to more chaos and confrontation in Lebanon.” The statement called for a political solution to the crisis.

This crisis is still developing. Little is known of the group under attack. What is known is that U.S. policy in the region has always been to attempt to divide the resistance and enflame the situation when faced with a crisis.

New understanding of old tactics

The British Empire achieved world domination in the 19th and early 20th century through a sophisticated and cynical policy of divide and rule in every region of its empire. The British Colonial Office’s 1917 Balfour Declaration, which opened Palestine to Zionist settlement, was the expression of this policy in the Arab world.

The state of Israel was from the beginning an instrument of British and then U.S. control in Western Asia. In 1948 with the establishment of Israel, British troops were withdrawing and there were no U.S. troops in the region. At the time of the June 1967 Arab/Israel War, there were no U.S. troops or bases in the area. By arming and supplying Israel, U.S. imperialism was able to attack Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan again and again and set back social and political gains.

A sea change has now developed in the consciousness of the masses. Despite decades of occupation, road blocks, walls and hundreds of check points, Israel was forced to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. The Israelis’ many efforts to break and demoralize the Palestinian resistance have also failed in the occupied West Bank despite even more extreme walls, ghettos and land confiscation.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, despite a massive bombardment of the entire country, faced a powerful, well-organized resistance and failed to secure a position even one mile inside Lebanon.

This all means that despite an endless supply of the most high-tech weapons in the Pentagon’s arsenal and an endless line of credit, Israel is no longer able to carry out the very tasks for which the U.S. has funded and supported it for decades.

Not only has the Israeli position changed, but U.S. imperialism can no longer rely on Israel to successfully police the region in U.S. interests. Now Washington must send its own forces and become the focus of global hatred.

But the Iraq experience has shown that even this drastic step is no sure solution for Washington. Despite stationing 150,000 troops in Iraq and 100,000 private contractors—that is, mercenaries—tens of thousands of other forces in the region, a whole series of bases and aircraft carriers, the U.S. has been unable to secure control of Iraq. Despite doing all in its power to create and intensify sectarian divisions in the Iraqi population, U.S. imperialism faces an irresolvable disaster in its attempt to occupy Iraq.

The high-tech weapons of the Pentagon are ever more destructive and deadly. But they no longer have the ability to create massive panic and chaotic flight. Their political weapon of division, while still dangerous and combustible, is also losing its impact.

The resistance in Palestine, in Lebanon and in Iraq deserves the full support of all progressive forces who struggle for unity and human solidarity.

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